Sexual health is a cornerstone of personal wellbeing, and many men throughout the U.S. struggle with erectile dysfunction but are uncomfortable broaching the situation with their doctor. If this common issue is affecting your daily life, know that it’s a common issue – even if people are reluctant to talk about it. Here are some facts about erectile dysfunction, what it entails, how it happens, and how to treat it.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is the given name for the inability to achieve and maintain an erection long enough to complete intercourse. Erectile dysfunction can pertain to a wide range of symptoms. Some men may struggle to achieve an erection and then have little difficulty maintaining it. Others have the opposite problem, achieving erections with minimal difficulty but struggling to maintain them long enough for sex. Erectile dysfunction can also apply to a man experiencing decreased sexual drive.
Many men feel self-conscious about discussing issues of virility and impotence. They may struggle to open up about these issues with their partners, but there are ways to treat this erectile dysfunction that can mean a better sexual life. Being open with partners and doctors about the condition is the first step to understanding its cause and how to fix it.
Erectile Dysfunction Statistics
The School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin reports that erectile dysfunction affects men in various degrees in different age groups. About 5% of men experience complete erectile dysfunction at age 40. Mild to moderate erectile dysfunction affects about 10% of men for each decade of life. For example, about 50% of men in their 50s will experience mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, and about 60% of men in their 60s will have symptoms, and so on. Erectile dysfunction can appear at any age but tends to affect older men more frequently.
Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction
The most common symptom of erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection long enough to complete intercourse. However, this is not a blanket definition that applies to every case of erectile dysfunction. Some of the symptoms commonly attributed to erectile dysfunction include:
- Low libido, or diminished sex drive
- Inability to achieve an erection
- Inability to maintain an erection
- Inability to climax
- Premature climaxing
- Anxiety surrounding sexual activity that interferes with ability to perform
- Soft erections or the ability to only achieve semi-erections
Most Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Most men experiencing symptoms want to know what causes erectile dysfunction. The condition affects men of various ages, backgrounds, and health levels, but there is no single cause. Sometimes, it is an isolated condition. For others, it could be a symptom of another medical issue. Though erectile dysfunction entails some common symptoms in all cases, every individual who experiences it will have different symptoms that range in severity. Erectile dysfunction could also turn out to be a symptom of another more serious medical condition. In some cases, psychological issues may cause erectile dysfunction.
Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Various physical causes can lead to erectile dysfunction. A few of which include:
- Physical injury to the penis
- Spinal cord injury that diminishes or destroys nerve connections to the genitals
- Degenerative neurological diseases that influence hormone production
- Heart disease, which can restrict blood flow and complicate sexual function
- Kidney diseases
- Hormonal disorders
- Prescription side effects
In some cases, such as with an injury to the penis, the erectile dysfunction may resolve after completing treatment and time to heal from the injury. In other cases, such as paralysis from spinal cord injury, erectile dysfunction may be a permanent symptom of the underlying condition.
Psychological Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Many men experience erectile dysfunction and other sexual complications due to psychological issues, including:
- Sex-related trauma. Men who have been victimized by sexual abuse may have difficult engaging in sexual activity.
- Stress. Excess cortisol levels in the body can interfere with other hormones, making it difficult to achieve the biochemical balance required to achieve and maintain an erection.
- Anxiety. Many men feel pressured to perform as good lovers, and this can cause something akin to “stage fright” in some cases. Performance anxiety is a major concern for many men, but they may feel embarrassed to talk about it with their partners or even their doctors.
- Fatigue. The male reproductive system relies on a complex system of nerve impulses, biochemical responses, and hormonal processes to achieve and maintain an erection. Physical exhaustion or psychological fatigue can make it difficult to maintain an erection.
Men who experience erectile dysfunction due to psychological causes may benefit from psychiatric medications for ongoing mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and open conversations with spouses and partners. Talk to a medical professional to know whether the issue is physical, psychological, or a combination.
Drug Interactions and Erectile Dysfunction
Some medications cause erectile dysfunction – either temporarily or as long as the medication is used. These may include blood pressure meds, antidepressants, or even over-the-counter antihistamines. Other substances can affect erection health as well. For instance, recreational marijuana use or drinking too much alcohol can cause erectile function issues.
Common Misconceptions About Erectile Dysfunction
Men dealing with erectile dysfunction contend with the stigmas surrounding difficulty with sexual performance and poor virility, as well as misinformation and myths that circulate about erectile dysfunction. Here are a few of the most common myths about erectile dysfunction.
- “Erectile dysfunction only affects older men.” While older men are at increased risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, this condition may afflict men of any age past puberty.
- “Erectile dysfunction is simply a fact of life. It’s part of growing old.” Plenty of men in their senior years are capable of sexual activity. Anyone experiencing erectile dysfunction at any age can potentially receive effective treatment.
- “Erectile dysfunction may be unpleasant, but it’s not dangerous.” While the symptoms of erectile dysfunction may not be life-threatening, the condition can indicate a more dangerous medical issue such as diabetes or heart disease.
- “You only experience erectile dysfunction if you’re not attracted to your partner.” While lack of attraction may play some role in the psychological end of achieving and maintaining an erection, erectile dysfunction is far more likely to result from physiological or psychological causes.
- “Pills are the only real treatment for erectile dysfunction.” Some men find relief with prescription virility medications, but this is not the only option for treating erectile dysfunction. If the condition is a symptom of a larger issue, treating that issue should improve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Similarly, many men experience relief with holistic treatments and lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, and losing weight.
Even with the awareness of these as myths, erectile dysfunction may be a difficult subject to discuss with friends or family members, but any man who experiences symptoms of erectile dysfunction should speak with a doctor about his concerns. These symptoms are not something men must simply endure; treatment is available in various forms.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatments
Treatment for erectile dysfunction exists in many forms, and individual results may vary based on severity of symptoms and underlying causes.
Medications such as Viagra and Cialis can improve symptoms in most men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, but doctors should first investigate other underlying causes. These medications come with possible side effects, which could include:
- Viagra: Upset stomach, back pain, muscle soreness, headache, runny nose
- Cialis: Memory issues, diarrhea/nausea, muscle pain, headache, flu-like symptoms
Holistic treatments, such as massage, meditation, yoga therapy, and exercise therapy can improve mood and regulate hormones to alleviate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction for some men. Homeopathic treatments have also proven to be effective for some men. However, keep in mind that some herbs and non-traditional meds may come with side effects, so talk with your doctor about anything you are considering using to treat erectile dysfunction. A few options and their side effects include:
- DHEA. Evidence exists that DHEA can help with erectile improvement, but it can cause acne.
- Ginseng. One study found a cream using Ginseng can be effective in premature ejaculation. Headaches and vertigo are common side effects. It should only be used short-term.
- L-arginine. Evidence shows that taking a high dose can help but side effects include nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. It cannot be taken with Viagra.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about compounding options for homeopathic treatments.
Positive lifestyle changes can improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction and also enhance overall health. Losing weight, eating a more balanced diet, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and increasing daily exercise can all help improve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and promote overall wellness.
Mental health may be the root of many cases of erectile dysfunction, and psychotherapy and counseling may offer non-medical relief. Unchecked depression, anxiety, personality disorders, or mood disorders can increase the likelihood of experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Managing the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction is the best method for treating symptoms. When an individual has any type of heart disease, metabolic disorder, cancer, or other chronic illness, proper management may alleviate symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Finding Long-Term Relief from Erectile Dysfunction
Treatments may provide relief to men experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction, and some men may benefit from a blend of different treatments. Speaking with a doctor about the issue and identifying the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction is the best first step toward finding a solution. Compounded medications that include prescription drugs for ongoing medical issues, herbal supplements, and the symptoms of erectile dysfunction can offer tremendous results.
The Compounding Pharmacy of America offers medication compounding services to help you take your necessary medications in the most convenient form possible. Visit us online to learn more about how the Compounding Pharmacy of America can help you find long-term relief from erectile dysfunction.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.